This year Lisbon is roaring along with noted startups like Uniplaces, Aptoide, Farfetch, Seedrs and Unbabel putting the Portuguese capital on the map. Vast annual startup conference Web Summit arrived last year with 53,000 people, and entrepreneurs and investors have been increasingly eyeing-up the city as a viable alternative to equally cheap Berlin, especially since the government allowed existing businesses re-locating there to enjoy a 10 years tax-free welcome.
But so what, right? Every city has its startups and champions. However, this time there’s a difference. Cities aren’t just competing on startups now, they are competing on startup hubs and clusters. And what is more efficient than co-locating startups in huge, campus-like, facilities? Hence, Station F recently opened with a huge fan-fare about its massive space.
Now, this is the kind of thing the hub-builders Factory did with its big former flour mill in Berlin, now home to Soundcloud and others. And it’s continued with another similar project in the city. But now it intends to do something radically big in Lisbon.
It is no surprise that Lisbon has now attracted a group of international real estate developers like Factory, and partner Löscher & Böckmann, to add to the momentum. There remains vast swathes of the city under-developed.
So, with support from Startup Lisboa, the Lisbon City Hall has contracted Factory to work with them on a massive new project in Beato, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Lisbon, famous for its industrial heritage and already home to a big creative community and craft beer scene.
Dubbed the Hub Criativo do Beato, the city’s project will now be challenging Paris’ Station F to be the world’s largest startup campus.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Station F has 366,000ft2 or 34,000m2 (square meters).
But Hub Criativo do Beato plans to have 35,000m2 planned for just its first phase. And almost double that in phase two. In other words, at completion, it will be around 100,000 m2, thus utterly dwarfing Station F, and many other similar projects. I guess Skolkovo near Moscow could be deemed bigger, but they also do nuclear and space there, so rather different from pure tech startups.
Where on earth have they acquired all this space? Well, the 20 building complex it will be sited on previously hosted the food production facilities serving the military and government operations in Lisbon. After the end of the Salazar dictatorship, the city, in its wisdom kept this massive site of industrial heritage well maintained. But it’s not been operational for decades – until now.
In April I toured the monstrous site, where the Factory team will renovate a 11,000m2 (118,000 sqft) building on the edge of the complex with views of the Tagus River. And it’s big. Really big. Plus it will keep many of the unique architectural elements of the spaces. Huge bread ovens anyone?
Factory is one of the first players supporting the Lisbon Mayor, Fernando Medina, in investing into and revitalizing the district, and his further vision of connecting Lisbon’s Old Town with its commercial Expo district in the north. Medina believes “this is one of the city’s most ambitious integrated development efforts since Expo 98” which is what helped put Lisbon on the map, back in the day.
Factory has yet to announce its anchor tenants, however Mercedes is understood to be in negotiations to move an innovation team to Beato, as is a team from Web Summit.
In this initial phase there will be offices for up to 500 tech workers. Plus, the building will host several event spaces, rooftop terrace, gym and Factory’s own cafe and craft beer bar, R/D.
Since 2012 the Factory team has set up two startup campuses in Berlin, and attracted companies like Soundcloud, Twitter, HERE, 6Wunderkinder, The Family, Stripe, Uber, Zendesk, Point Nine Capital and several others operate from their spaces. Architect Julian Breinersdorfer, who worked with Factory to design both of their previous buildings, will again work on Factory Lisbon.
After exiting their first campus, the founding Factory team raised a recent investment round from a diverse group investors including Round Hill Capital, 500 Startups, Elkstone Capital and angels Matthias Ummenhofer and Christian Reber.
So, while Station F might have been the world’s biggest startup campus in July 2017, a month after its launch, it’s poised to be surpassed with another campus beginning with F…